Scientists Stored Data Inside DNA — And It Was a Success

Scientists Stored Data Inside DNA — And It Was a Success
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Data centers can span millions of square feet, but a group of scientists is aiming to shrink these facilities down to microscopic proportions. 

As our lives become more and more digitized, there's an aggressively growing demand for data storage. After all, the digital ecosystem is expected to reach 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020. 

Researchers at the University of Washington and Microsoft have a genius solution: storing that data in DNA, which has a longer shelf life and takes up way less space than a sprawling data storage center.

A team of computer scientists and electrical engineers has successfully stored digital data in DNA, according to UW Today. What's even more ace? They faultlessly retrieved the sequences without losing a single byte. 

Source: Reuters

"Life has produced this fantastic molecule called DNA that efficiently stores all kinds of information about your genes and how a living system works — it's very, very compact and very durable," co-author and UW associate professor of computer science and engineering Luis Ceze said, according to UW Today. "We're essentially repurposing it to store digital data — pictures, videos, documents — in a manageable way for hundreds or thousands of years."

Thank the angels at UW and Microsoft working to make it possible for us to take a fuck ton of selfies without having to build more massive data centers throughout the land.

From binary to biology: If you recall anything from your high school biology class, it's probably the four basic building blocks of DNA: adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine. 

To convert the ones and zeroes of the digital data into As, Gs, Cs and Ts, the researchers chopped it up and stored it by "synthesizing a massive number of tiny DNA molecules," according to UW Today

But wait — there's more! The researchers were then able "to identify and retrieve the correct sequences from this large pool of random DNA molecules." Put simply, imagine a photo of your cat being converted into a DNA molecule, and then BACK into a photo of a your cat (only it's not simple at all — it's totally fucking brilliant). 

Source: Reuters

"This is an example where we're borrowing something from nature — DNA — to store information," Ceze told UW Today. "But we're using something we know from computers — how to correct memory errors — and applying that back to nature."

And nature will thank you, Ceze, because now big-ass data centers may not overrun our precious planet. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Melanie Ehrenkranz

Melanie is a writer covering technology and the future. She can be reached at melanie@mic.com.

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